Wednesday, January 30, 2013

If you have one, you have to have two?

Here is an interesting statement from General Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, on women entering combat arms military occupational specialties:
"If the numbers are so small with regards to qualification, then there very may well be (job fields) that remain closed," Amos said. "Those will be few and far between." Deploying only one or two female servicemembers in a unit, for example, would make it difficult for the women to succeed. "You want to have assimilation … so our females can mentor one another," Amos said.
On the one hand, this seems visionary, committed - thinking about what helps people succeed - mentoring! But a mentor is someone with experience, who guides another through challenges. There are no women that could be called mentors in combat arms right now.

So he really means that in small or individual numbers women will not succeed. Why is that? Will they be singled out for hazing, or given preferential treatment? If they are up to the task physically, we are supposed to assume that they will be surrounded by mature people who will treat them equally without regard to their gender, so why the need for multiple women in one unit? What would it be about small numbers of women in a group of men that makes it difficult to succeed?

Some ideas about the underlying meaning here: first, women will not be able to hold their own without strength in numbers; second, multiple women will dissipate the urge of men to treat them differently (whether the treatment is good or bad) so there is still a divide between the genders; third, multiple women are needed so they can keep each other in line-providing moral support (even women can behave badly) and keeping each other company in the bathroom or in the 2 man tent (not being funny here-everyone has to have a buddy and you can't very well pair a male with a female in those situations - or, if they want to be completely committed to equality they would do that, which, of course, would lead to other problems, so women can't be entirely integrated with the men); fourth, multiple women provide better protection for each other in the case of assault by male service members, and discourage males from making aggressive advances in the first place. Multiple females is not about mentoring, it's about preventing dangerous or detrimental (to the service) situations. But, allowing women to enter combat arms is all about providing equal opportunity for promotion? If women need so much support for advancement, their opportunity starts to seem more equal than a male's opportunity.

The disconnect is in what we are asking of our service members while in direct combat. We ask them to resort to the ultimate instinct of survival, to kill another person before that person kills them or one of their team. Killing is an act of barbarism, base and crude, kill or be killed self preservation. We expect them to act without hesitation, and now we will ask them to suppress instinct and be their most civilized selves, and to do this all at the same time. This is an impossible task for even the most refined warrior.


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